For all the platitudes proffered about honouring the dead from two world wars and other conflicts, Croydon’s civic leaders have done very little… well, nothing, to maintain and clean the war memorial outside the Town Hall.
The Croydon war memorial, just over 100 years old, will be at the centre of solemn ceremonies on Katharine Street tomorrow, November 11, Armistice Day, and then again on Remembrance Sunday.
The events are to be attended by the Royal British Legion, some military units and reservists associated with Croydon, the Deputy Lieutenant – the King’s representative to the borough – plus the borough’s gaggle of mayors and their various deputies and assorted hangers-ons.
But the Grade II*-listed monument is in dire need of some care and attention.
The stains from the run off of rainwater have left nasty, dark smears down the supposedly white Portland stone at the front of the Croydon memorial. Some green stains, possibly moss or algae, are also visible.
Designed by James Burford, the memorial was unveiled in October 1921. Croydon’s memorial is unusual because it commemorates local victims of war, and those who “suffered”, not just those in the military who were killed in action. This is an awareness which perhaps reflects the deadly Zeppelin raids on the town in World War I.
The memorial is framed by two bronze statues by sculptor Paul Raphael Montford. One depicts a soldier of the East Surrey Regiment, dressing his own wounded arm, the other a woman holding a child in her left arm and a letter in her outstretched right hand. Her distress is evident. Perhaps she has just received grim news from the front?
The original inscription read: “A tribute to the men and women of Croydon who died and suffered.”
The memorial was first updated after World War II. In 1997, a further inscription was added: “And in memory of those who lost their lives in wars and conflicts since.”
In 1973, the memorial was granted Grade II listed status, legally protecting it from unauthorised modification or demolition. It was upgraded to Grade II* in 2017.
But it has been badly neglected by Croydon’s cash-strapped council. Despite a series of reminders to Croydon’s executive Mayor, Jason Perry, nothing has been done to have it cleaned up.
One Inside Croydon reader reckons he has spoken to Mayor Perry directly at least three times this year. On one occasion, Perry even made some kind of note on his phone.
Describing the war memorial as being in a “shabby state”, the resident has written to Mayor Perry this week. “I am shocked and very disappointed nothing has been done,” Stephen Pollard wrote.
“I have noticed the condition of our memorial to the very brave and fearless men of our borough getting worse over a period of some time…
“It is a disgrace and very disrespectful to the men and women of our borough, especially for this weekend on Remembrance Day. The green algae on the stonework to my eyes is disrespectful to the fallen men and women who gave their lives for our freedom today.
“Could I please ask that at least a good jet pressure wash is applied to the surface of the stone to bring some respect to this very important memorial.”
Tomorrow, as the Town Hall clock strikes 11, we will remember them. Let’s hope that the council has not forgotten to give the war memorial a good clean.
Tony Pearson, Croydon’s ceremonial mayor, will now attend tomorrow’s Armistice Day wreath-laying at the Town Hall war memorial. Inside Croydon reported last week that the council had issued a press release stating that Pearson would be absent from one of the most solemn and important events in his mayoral year of office.
It is thought that Pearson, a Conservative councillor from New Addington, had intended instead to be present at the funeral of Elianne Andam, the 15-year-old schoolgirl who was murdered on the streets of Croydon in September.
But Pearson told a meeting last night of All Faiths Together that he will now attend the Armistice Day ceremony.
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